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1.  The Role of Tetraether Lipid Composition in the Adaptation of Thermophilic Archaea to Acidity 
Diether and tetraether lipids are fundamental components of the archaeal cell membrane. Archaea adjust the degree of tetraether lipid cyclization in order to maintain functional membranes and cellular homeostasis when confronted with pH and/or thermal stress. Thus, the ability to adjust tetraether lipid composition likely represents a critical phenotypic trait that enabled archaeal diversification into environments characterized by extremes in pH and/or temperature. Here we assess the relationship between geochemical variation, core- and polar-isoprenoid glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraether (C-iGDGT and P-iGDGT, respectively) lipid composition, and archaeal 16S rRNA gene diversity and abundance in 27 geothermal springs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The composition and abundance of C-iGDGT and P-iGDGT lipids recovered from geothermal ecosystems were distinct from surrounding soils, indicating that they are synthesized endogenously. With the exception of GDGT-0 (no cyclopentyl rings), the abundances of individual C-iGDGT and P-iGDGT lipids were significantly correlated. The abundance of a number of individual tetraether lipids varied positively with the relative abundance of individual 16S rRNA gene sequences, most notably crenarchaeol in both the core and polar GDGT fraction and sequences closely affiliated with Candidatus Nitrosocaldus yellowstonii. This finding supports the proposal that crenarchaeol is a biomarker for nitrifying archaea. Variation in the degree of cyclization of C- and P-iGDGT lipids recovered from geothermal mats and sediments could best be explained by variation in spring pH, with lipids from acidic environments tending to have, on average, more internal cyclic rings than those from higher pH ecosystems. Likewise, variation in the phylogenetic composition of archaeal 16S rRNA genes could best be explained by spring pH. In turn, the phylogenetic similarity of archaeal 16S rRNA genes was significantly correlated with the similarity in the composition of C- and P-iGDGT lipids. Taken together, these data suggest that the ability to adjust the composition of GDGT lipid membranes played a central role in the diversification of archaea into or out of environments characterized by extremes of low pH and high temperature.
PMCID: PMC3615187  PMID: 23565112
tetraether lipids; Nitrosocaldus; amoA; nitrification; crenarchaeol; community ecology; phylogenetic ecology
2.  Novel archaeal macrocyclic diether core membrane lipids in a methane-derived carbonate crust from a mud volcano in the Sorokin Trough, NE Black Sea 
Archaea  2002;1(3):165-173.
A methane-derived carbonate crust was collected from the recently discovered NIOZ mud volcano in the Sorokin Trough, NE Black Sea during the 11th Training-through-Research cruise of the R/V Professor Logachev. Among several specific bacterial and archaeal membrane lipids present in this crust, two novel macrocyclic diphytanyl glycerol diethers, containing one or two cyclopentane rings, were detected. Their structures were tentatively identified based on the interpretation of mass spectra, comparison with previously reported mass spectral data, and a hydrogenation experiment. This macrocyclic type of archaeal core membrane diether lipid has so far been identified only in the deep-sea hydrothermal vent methanogen Methanococcus jannaschii. Here, we provide the first evidence that these macrocyclic diethers can also contain internal cyclopentane rings. The molecular structure of the novel diethers resembles that of dibiphytanyl tetraethers in which biphytane chains, containing one and two pentacyclic rings, also occur. Such tetraethers were abundant in the crust. Compound-specific isotope measurements revealed δ13C values of –104 to –111‰ for these new archaeal lipids, indicating that they are derived from methanotrophic archaea acting within anaerobic methane-oxidizing consortia, which subsequently induce authigenic carbonate formation.
PMCID: PMC2685565  PMID: 15803662
anaerobic oxidation of methane; archaeal membrane lipids; fluid venting; microbial processes
3.  Preparation and Characterization of Stealth Archaeosomes Based on a Synthetic PEGylated Archaeal Tetraether Lipid 
Journal of Drug Delivery  2011;2011:396068.
The present studies were focused on the formation and characterization of sterically stabilized archaeosomes made from a synthetic PEGylated archaeal lipid. In a first step, a synthetic archaeal tetraether bipolar lipid was functionalized with a poly(ethylene glycol), PEG, and (PEG45-Tetraether) with the aim of coating the archaeosome surface with a sterically stabilizing hydrophilic polymer. In a second step, Egg-PC/PEG45-Tetraether (90/10 wt%) archaeosomes were prepared, and their physicochemical characteristics were determined by dynamic light scattering (size, polydispersity), cryo-TEM (morphology), and by high-performance thin layer chromatography (lipid composition), in comparison with standard Egg-PC/PEG45-DSPE formulations. Further, a fluorescent dye, the carboxyfluorescein, was encapsulated into the prepared archaeosomes in order to evaluate the potential of such nanostructures as drug carriers. Release studies have shown that the stability of Egg-PC/PEG45-Tetraether-based archaeosomes is significantly higher at 37°C than the one of Egg-PC/PEG45-DSPE-based liposomes, as evidenced by the slower release of the dye encapsulated into PEGylated archaeosomes. This enhanced stability could be related to the membrane spanning properties of the archaeal bipolar lipid as already described with natural or synthetic tetraether lipids.
PMCID: PMC3095417  PMID: 21603209
4.  Effects of a Squalene Epoxidase Inhibitor, Terbinafine, on Ether Lipid Biosyntheses in a Thermoacidophilic Archaeon, Thermoplasma acidophilum 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(5):1395-1401.
The archaeal plasma membrane consists mainly of diether lipids and tetraether lipids instead of the usual ester lipids found in other organisms. Although a molecule of tetraether lipid is thought to be synthesized from two molecules of diether lipids, there is no direct information about the biosynthetic pathway(s) or intermediates of tetraether lipid biosynthesis. In this study, we examined the effects of the fungal squalene epoxidase inhibitor terbinafine on the growth and ether lipid biosyntheses in the thermoacidophilic archaeon Thermoplasma acidophilum. Terbinafine was found to inhibit the growth of T. acidophilum in a concentration-dependent manner. When growing T. acidophilum cells were pulse-labeled with [2-14C]mevalonic acid in the presence of terbinafine, incorporation of radioactivity into the tetraether lipid fraction was strongly suppressed, while accumulation of radioactivity was noted at the position corresponding to diether lipids, depending on the concentration of terbinafine. After the cells were washed with fresh medium and incubated further without the radiolabeled substrate and the inhibitor, the accumulated radioactivity in the diether lipid fraction decreased quickly while that in the tetraether lipids increased simultaneously, without significant changes in the total radioactivity of ether lipids. These results strongly suggest that terbinafine inhibits the biosynthesis of tetraether lipids from a diether-type precursor lipid(s). The terbinafine treatment will be a tool for dissecting tetraether lipid biosynthesis in T. acidophilum.
PMCID: PMC134840  PMID: 11844769
5.  Freeze-fracture planes of methanogen membranes correlate with the content of tetraether lipids. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1993;175(4):1191-1197.
Methanospirillum hungatei GP1 contained 50% of its ether core lipids (polar lipids less head groups) as tetraether lipids, and its plasma membrane failed to fracture along its hydrophobic domain during freeze-etching. The membrane of Methanosaeta ("Methanothrix") concilii did not contain tetraether lipids and easily fractured to reveal typical intramembranous particles. Methanococcus jannaschii grown at 50 degrees C contained 20% tetraether core lipids, which increased to 45% when cells were grown at 70 degrees C. The frequency of membrane fracture was reduced as the membrane-spanning tetraether lipids approached 45%. As the tetraether lipid content increased, and while fracture was still possible, the particle density in the membrane increased; these added particles could be tetraether lipid complexes torn from the opposing membrane face. The diether membrane (no tetraether lipid) of Methanococcus voltae easily fractured, and the intramembranous particle density was low. Protein-free liposomes containing tetraether core lipids (ca. 45%) also did not fracture, whereas those made up exclusively of diether lipids did split, indicating that tetraether lipids add considerable vertical stability to the membrane. At tetraether lipid concentrations below 45%, liposome bilayers fractured to reveal small intramembranous particles which we interpret to be tetraether lipid complexes.
PMCID: PMC193038  PMID: 8432712
6.  Core and Intact Polar Glycerol Dibiphytanyl Glycerol Tetraether Lipids of Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea Enriched from Marine and Estuarine Sediments ▿ ¶  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(10):3468-3477.
Glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraether (GDGT)-based intact membrane lipids are increasingly being used as complements to conventional molecular methods in ecological studies of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) in the marine environment. However, the few studies that have been done on the detailed lipid structures synthesized by AOA in (enrichment) culture are based on species enriched from nonmarine environments, i.e., a hot spring, an aquarium filter, and a sponge. Here we have analyzed core and intact polar lipid (IPL)-GDGTs synthesized by three newly available AOA enriched directly from marine sediments taken from the San Francisco Bay estuary (“Candidatus Nitrosoarchaeum limnia”), and coastal marine sediments from Svalbard, Norway, and South Korea. Like previously screened AOA, the sedimentary AOA all synthesize crenarchaeol (a GDGT containing a cyclohexane moiety and four cyclopentane moieties) as a major core GDGT, thereby supporting the hypothesis that crenarchaeol is a biomarker lipid for AOA. The IPL headgroups synthesized by sedimentary AOA comprised mainly monohexose, dihexose, phosphohexose, and hexose-phosphohexose moieties. The hexose-phosphohexose headgroup bound to crenarchaeol was common to all enrichments and, in fact, the only IPL common to every AOA enrichment analyzed to date. This apparent specificity, in combination with its inferred lability, suggests that it may be the most suitable biomarker lipid to trace living AOA. GDGTs bound to headgroups with a mass of 180 Da of unknown structure appear to be specific to the marine group I.1a AOA: they were synthesized by all three sedimentary AOA and “Candidatus Nitrosopumilus maritimus”; however, they were absent in the group I.1b AOA “Candidatus Nitrososphaera gargensis.”
PMCID: PMC3126447  PMID: 21441324
7.  Factors Controlling the Distribution of Archaeal Tetraethers in Terrestrial Hot Springs▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(11):3523-3532.
Glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) found in hot springs reflect the abundance and community structure of Archaea in these extreme environments. The relationships between GDGTs, archaeal communities, and physical or geochemical variables are underexamined to date and when reported often result in conflicting interpretations. Here, we examined profiles of GDGTs from pure cultures of Crenarchaeota and from terrestrial geothermal springs representing a wide distribution of locations, including Yellowstone National Park (United States), the Great Basin of Nevada and California (United States), Kamchatka (Russia), Tengchong thermal field (China), and Thailand. These samples had temperatures of 36.5 to 87°C and pH values of 3.0 to 9.2. GDGT abundances also were determined for three soil samples adjacent to some of the hot springs. Principal component analysis identified four factors that accounted for most of the variance among nine individual GDGTs, temperature, and pH. Significant correlations were observed between pH and the GDGTs crenarchaeol and GDGT-4 (four cyclopentane rings, m/z 1,294); pH correlated positively with crenarchaeol and inversely with GDGT-4. Weaker correlations were observed between temperature and the four factors. Three of the four GDGTs used in the marine TEX86 paleotemperature index (GDGT-1 to -3, but not crenarchaeol isomer) were associated with a single factor. No correlation was observed for GDGT-0 (acyclic caldarchaeol): it is effectively its own variable. The biosynthetic mechanisms and exact archaeal community structures leading to these relationships remain unknown. However, the data in general show promise for the continued development of GDGT lipid-based physiochemical proxies for archaeal evolution and for paleo-ecology or paleoclimate studies.
PMCID: PMC2423032  PMID: 18390673
8.  Functional Reconstitution of the Integral Membrane Enzyme, Isoprenylcysteine Carboxyl Methyltransferase, in Synthetic Bolalipid Membrane Vesicles† 
Biochemistry  2006;45(49):14683-14694.
Three bipolar archaeal-type diglycerophosphocholine tetraether lipids (a.k.a., bolalipids) have been prepared to determine 1) the influence of molecular structure on the physical properties of bolalipid membranes and 2) their impact on the functional reconstitution of Ste14p, a membrane-associated isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The three bolalipids synthesized were: C20BAS, C32BAS, and C32phytBAS. These bolalipid structures differ in that the C20BAS derivative has a short sn-1 glyceryl diether C20H40 transmembrane alkyl chain and two ether-linked sn-2 n-decyl chains, whereas the C32BAS and C32phytBAS derivatives have a longer sn-1 diether C32H64 membrane-spanning chain and two ether-linked sn-2 n-hexadecyl or phytanyl chains, respectively. Differential scanning calorimetry and temperature-dependent 31P NMR was used to determine the gel-to-liquid crystalline phase transition temperatures of the bolalipids (C32BAS Tm > 85 °C; C32phytBAS Tm = 14 °C; C20BAS Tm = 17°C). The bolalipid lateral diffusion coefficients, determined by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching at 20 °C, were 1.5 × 10−8 and 1.8 × 10−9 cm2/s for C20BAS and C32phytBAS, respectively. The mobility of C32BAS could not be measured at this temperature. Ste14p activity was monitored by an in vitro methyltransferase assay in reconstituted vesicle dispersions composed of DMPC, C20BAS:E. coli polar lipid, C20BAS:POPC, C32phytBAS:E. coli polar lipid, and C32phytBAS:POPC. Ste14p activity was lost in vesicles composed of 75–100 mol% C20BAS and 0–100 mol% C32BAS, but retained in vesicles with 0–50 mol% C20BAS and 0–100 mol% C32phytBAS. Confocal immunofluorescence microscopy confirmed the presence of Ste14p in 100 mol% C20BAS and 100 mol% C32phytBAS vesicle dispersions, even though the lamellar liquid crystalline phase thickness of C20BAS is only 32 Å. Since Ste14p activity was not affected by either the gel to liquid-crystal phase transition temperature of the lipid or the temperature of the assay, the low activity observed in 75–100 mol% C20BAS membranes can be attributed to hydrophobic mismatch between this bolalipid and the hydrophobic surface of Ste14p.
PMCID: PMC2583143  PMID: 17144661
9.  Liquid but Durable: Molecular Dynamics Simulations Explain the Unique Properties of Archaeal-Like Membranes 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:7462.
Archaeal plasma membranes appear to be extremely durable and almost impermeable to water and ions, in contrast to the membranes of Bacteria and Eucaryota. Additionally, they remain liquid within a temperature range of 0–100°C. These are the properties that have most likely determined the evolutionary fate of Archaea, and it may be possible for bionanotechnology to adopt these from nature. In this work, we use molecular dynamics simulations to assess at the atomistic level the structure and dynamics of a series of model archaeal membranes with lipids that have tetraether chemical nature and “branched” hydrophobic tails. We conclude that the branched structure defines dense packing and low water permeability of archaeal-like membranes, while at the same time ensuring a liquid-crystalline state, which is vital for living cells. This makes tetraether lipid systems promising in bionanotechnology and material science, namely for design of new and unique membrane nanosystems.
PMCID: PMC4264030  PMID: 25501042
10.  Intact Polar and Core Glycerol Dibiphytanyl Glycerol Tetraether Lipids of Group I.1a and I.1b Thaumarchaeota in Soil 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(19):6866-6874.
Ecological studies of thaumarchaeota often apply glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraether (GDGT)-based intact membrane lipids. However, these components have only been characterized for thaumarchaeota from aquatic environments. Thaumarchaeota have been shown to play an important role in the nitrogen cycle in soil as ammonium oxidizers, and GDGTs are common lipids encountered in soil. We report the core and intact polar lipid (IPL) GDGTs produced by three newly available thaumarchaeota isolated from grassland soil in Austria (“Nitrososphaera viennensis,” group I.1b) and enriched from agricultural soils in South Korea (“Candidatus Nitrosoarchaeum koreensis” MY1, group I.1a; and “Candidatus Nitrososphaera” strain JG1, group I.1b). The soil thaumarchaeota all synthesize crenarchaeol as their major core GDGT, in agreement with the fact that crenarchaeol has also been detected in thaumarchaeota from aquatic environments. The crenarchaeol regioisomer apparently is produced in significant quantities only by soil thaumarchaeota of the I.1b subgroup. In addition, GDGTs with 0 to 4 cyclopentane moieties and GDGTs containing an additional hydroxyl group were detected. The IPL head groups of their membrane lipids comprised mainly monohexose, dihexose, trihexose, phosphohexose, and hexose-phosphohexose moieties. The hexose-phosphohexose head group bound to crenarchaeol occurred in all soil thaumarchaeota, and this IPL is at present the only lipid that is detected in all thaumarchaeota analyzed so far. This specificity and its lability indicate that it is the most suitable biomarker lipid to trace living thaumarchaeota. This study, in combination with previous studies, also suggests that hydroxylated GDGTs occur in the I.1a, but not in the I.1b, subgroup of the thaumarchaeota.
PMCID: PMC3457472  PMID: 22820324
11.  Archaeal and Bacterial Glycerol Dialkyl Glycerol Tetraether Lipids in Hot Springs of Yellowstone National Park▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(19):6181-6191.
Glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) are core membrane lipids originally thought to be produced mainly by (hyper)thermophilic archaea. Environmental screening of low-temperature environments showed, however, the abundant presence of structurally diverse GDGTs from both bacterial and archaeal sources. In this study, we examined the occurrences and distribution of GDGTs in hot spring environments in Yellowstone National Park with high temperatures (47 to 83°C) and mostly neutral to alkaline pHs. GDGTs with 0 to 4 cyclopentane moieties were dominant in all samples and are likely derived from both (hyper)thermophilic Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota. GDGTs with 4 to 8 cyclopentane moieties, likely derived from the crenarchaeotal order Sulfolobales and the euryarchaeotal order Thermoplasmatales, are usually present in much lower abundance, consistent with the relatively high pH values of the hot springs. The relative abundances of cyclopentane-containing GDGTs did not correlate with in situ temperature and pH, suggesting that other environmental and possibly genetic factors play a role as well. Crenarchaeol, a biomarker thought to be specific for nonthermophilic group I Crenarchaeota, was also found in most hot springs, though in relatively low concentrations, i.e., <5% of total GDGTs. Its abundance did not correlate with temperature, as has been reported previously. Instead, the cooccurrence of relatively abundant nonisoprenoid GDGTs thought to be derived from soil bacteria suggests a predominantly allochthonous source for crenarchaeol in these hot spring environments. Finally, the distribution of bacterial branched GDGTs suggests that they may be derived from the geothermally heated soils surrounding the hot springs.
PMCID: PMC2074994  PMID: 17693566
12.  Tetraether membrane lipids of Candidatus “Aciduliprofundum boonei”, a cultivated obligate thermoacidophilic euryarchaeote from deep-sea hydrothermal vents 
Extremophiles   2007;12(1):119-124.
The lipid composition of Candidatus “Aciduliprofundum boonei”, the only cultivated representative of archaea falling in the DHVE2 phylogenetic cluster, a group of microorganisms ubiquitously occurring at hydrothermal vents, was studied. The predominant core membrane lipids in this thermophilic euryarchaeote were found to be composed of glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) containing 0–4 cyclopentyl moieties. In addition, GDGTs with an additional covalent bond between the isoprenoid hydrocarbon chains, so-called H-shaped GDGTs, were present. The latter core lipids have been rarely reported previously. Intact polar lipid analysis revealed that they predominantly consist of GDGTs with a phospho-glycerol headgroup.
PMCID: PMC2175526  PMID: 17901915
Aciduliprofundum boonei; DHVE2 cluster; Glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers; Thermoacidophile
13.  Ether polar lipids of methanogenic bacteria: structures, comparative aspects, and biosyntheses. 
Microbiological Reviews  1993;57(1):164-182.
Complete structures of nearly 40 ether polar lipids from seven species of methanogens have been elucidated during the past 10 years. Three kinds of variations of core lipids, macrocyclic archaeol and two hydroxyarchaeols, were identified, in addition to the usual archaeol and caldarchaeol (for the nomenclature of archaeal [archaebacterial] ether lipids, see the text). Polar head groups of methanogen phospholipids include ethanolamine, serine, inositol, N-acetylglucosamine, dimethyl- and trimethylaminopentanetetrol, and glucosaminylinositol. Glucose is the sole hexose moiety of glycolipids in most methanogens, and galactose and mannose have been found in a few species. Methanogen lipids are characterized by their diversity in phosphate-containing polar head groups and core lipids, which in turn can be used for chemotaxonomy of methanogens. This was shown by preliminary simplified analyses of lipid component residues. Core lipid analysis by high-pressure liquid chromatography provides a method of determining the methanogenic biomass in natural samples. There has been significant progress in the biosynthetic studies of methanogen lipids in recent years. In vivo incorporation experiments have led to delineation of the outline of the synthetic route of the diphytanylglycerol ether core. The mechanisms of biosynthesis of tetraether lipids and various polar lipids, and cell-free systems of either lipid synthesis, however, remain to be elucidated. The significance and the origin of archaeal ether lipids is discussed in terms of the lipid composition of bacteria living in a wide variety of environments, the oxygen requirement for biosynthesis of hydrocarbon chains, and the physicochemical properties and functions of lipids as membrane constituents.
PMCID: PMC372904  PMID: 8464404
14.  In Situ Production of Crenarchaeol in Two California Hot Springs▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(13):4443-4451.
Crenarchaeol, a membrane-spanning glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (GDGT) containing a cyclohexane moiety in addition to four cyclopentane moieties, was originally hypothesized to be synthesized exclusively by the mesophilic Crenarchaeota. Recent studies reporting the occurrence of crenarchaeol in hot springs and as a membrane constituent of the recently isolated thermophilic crenarchaeote “Candidatus Nitrosocaldus yellowstonii,” however, have raised questions regarding its taxonomic distribution and function. To determine whether crenarchaeol in hot springs is indeed synthesized by members of the Archaea in situ or is of allochthonous origin, we quantified crenarchaeol present in the form of both intact polar lipids (IPLs) and core lipids in sediments of two California hot springs and in nearby soils. IPL-derived crenarchaeol (IPL-crenarchaeol) was found in both hot springs and soils, suggesting in situ production of this GDGT over a wide temperature range (12°C to 89°C). Quantification of archaeal amoA gene abundance by quantitative PCR showed a good correspondence with IPL-crenarchaeol, suggesting that it was indeed derived from living cells and that crenarchaeol-synthesizing members of the Archaea in our samples may also be ammonia oxidizers.
PMCID: PMC2704803  PMID: 19411420
15.  In Vitro Biosynthesis of Ether-Type Glycolipids in the Methanoarchaeon Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(11):4053-4061.
The biosynthesis of archaeal ether-type glycolipids was investigated in vitro using Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus cell-free homogenates. The sole sugar moiety of glycolipids and phosphoglycolipids of the organism is the β-d-glucosyl-(1→6)-d-glucosyl (gentiobiosyl) unit. The enzyme activities of archaeol:UDP-glucose β-glucosyltransferase (monoglucosylarchaeol [MGA] synthase) and MGA:UDP-glucose β-1,6-glucosyltransferase (diglucosylarchaeol [DGA] synthase) were found in the methanoarchaeon. The synthesis of DGA is probably a two-step glucosylation: (i) archaeol + UDP-glucose → MGA + UDP, and (ii) MGA + UDP-glucose → DGA + UDP. Both enzymes required the addition of K+ ions and archaetidylinositol for their activities. DGA synthase was stimulated by 10 mM MgCl2, in contrast to MGA synthase, which did not require Mg2+. It was likely that the activities of MGA synthesis and DGA synthesis were carried out by different proteins because of the Mg2+ requirement and their cellular localization. MGA synthase and DGA synthase can be distinguished in cell extracts greatly enriched for each activity by demonstrating the differing Mg2+ requirements of each enzyme. MGA synthase preferred a lipid substrate with the sn-2,3 stereostructure of the glycerol backbone on which two saturated isoprenoid chains are bound at the sn-2 and sn-3 positions. A lipid substrate with unsaturated isoprenoid chains or sn-1,2-dialkylglycerol configuration exhibited low activity. Tetraether-type caldarchaetidylinositol was also actively glucosylated by the homogenates to form monoglucosyl caldarchaetidylinositol and a small amount of diglucosyl caldarchaetidylinositol. The addition of Mg2+ increased the formation of diglucosyl caldarchaetidylinositol. This suggested that the same enzyme set synthesized the sole sugar moiety of diether-type glycolipids and tetraether-type phosphoglycolipids.
PMCID: PMC1913393  PMID: 17416653
16.  Biosynthesis of archaeal membrane ether lipids 
A vital function of the cell membrane in all living organism is to maintain the membrane permeability barrier and fluidity. The composition of the phospholipid bilayer is distinct in archaea when compared to bacteria and eukarya. In archaea, isoprenoid hydrocarbon side chains are linked via an ether bond to the sn-glycerol-1-phosphate backbone. In bacteria and eukarya on the other hand, fatty acid side chains are linked via an ester bond to the sn-glycerol-3-phosphate backbone. The polar head groups are globally shared in the three domains of life. The unique membrane lipids of archaea have been implicated not only in the survival and adaptation of the organisms to extreme environments but also to form the basis of the membrane composition of the last universal common ancestor (LUCA). In nature, a diverse range of archaeal lipids is found, the most common are the diether (or archaeol) and the tetraether (or caldarchaeol) lipids that form a monolayer. Variations in chain length, cyclization and other modifications lead to diversification of these lipids. The biosynthesis of these lipids is not yet well understood however progress in the last decade has led to a comprehensive understanding of the biosynthesis of archaeol. This review describes the current knowledge of the biosynthetic pathway of archaeal ether lipids; insights on the stability and robustness of archaeal lipid membranes; and evolutionary aspects of the lipid divide and the LUCA. It examines recent advances made in the field of pathway reconstruction in bacteria.
PMCID: PMC4244643  PMID: 25505460
archaea; ether lipids; isoprenoids; biosynthesis; lipid divide
17.  Factors controlling in vitro recrystallization of the Caulobacter crescentus paracrystalline S-layer. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(20):6349-6354.
The S-layer of Caulobacter is a two-dimensional paracrystalline array on the cell surface composed of a single protein, RsaA. We have established conditions for preparation of stable, soluble protein and then efficient in vitro recrystallization of the purified protein. Efficient recrystallization and long range order could not be obtained with pure protein only, though it was apparent that calcium was required for crystallization. Recrystallization was obtained when lipid vesicles were provided, but only when the vesicles contained the specific species of Caulobacter smooth lipopolysaccharide (SLPS) that previous studies implicated as a requirement for attaching the S-layer to the cell surface. The specific type of phospholipids did not appear critical; phospholipids rather different from those present in Caulobacter membranes or archaebacterial tetraether lipids worked equally well. The source of LPS was critical; rough and smooth variants of Salmonella typhimurium LPS as well as the rough form of Caulobacter LPS were ineffective. The requirement for calcium ions for recrystallization was further evaluated; strontium ions could substitute for calcium, and to a lesser extent, cobalt, barium, manganese and magnesium ions also stimulated crystallization. On the other hand, nickel and cadmium provided only weak crystallization stimulation, and zinc, copper, iron, aluminum ions, and the monovalent potassium, sodium, and lithium ions were ineffective. The recrystallization could also be reproduced with Langmuir-Blodgett lipid monolayers at an air-water interface. As with the vesicle experiments, this was only successful when SLPS was incorporated into the lipid mix. The best method for RsaA preparation, leading to apparently monomeric protein that was stable for many months, was an extraction with a low pH aqueous solution. We also achieved recrystallization, albeit at lower efficiency, using RsaA protein solubilized by 8 M urea, a method which allows retrieval of protein from inclusions, when expressed as heterologous protein in Escherichia coli or when retrieved as shed, precipitated protein from certain mutant caulobacters. In summary, the clarification of recrystallization methods has confirmed the requirement of SLPS as a surface attachment component and suggests that its presence in a membrane-like structure greatly stimulates the extent and quality of S-layer formation. The in vitro approach allowed the demonstration that specific ions are capable of participating in crystallization and now provides an assay for the crystallization potential of modified S-layer proteins, whether they were produced in or can be secreted by caulobacters.
PMCID: PMC179549  PMID: 9335282
18.  Wide distribution of autochthonous branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (bGDGTs) in U.S. Great Basin hot springs 
Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (bGDGTs) are membrane-spanning lipids that likely stabilize membranes of some bacteria. Although bGDGTs have been reported previously in certain geothermal environments, it has been suggested that they may derive from surrounding soils since bGDGTs are known to be produced by soil bacteria. To test the hypothesis that bGDGTs can be produced by thermophiles in geothermal environments, we examined the distribution and abundance of bGDGTs, along with extensive geochemical data, in 40 sediment and mat samples collected from geothermal systems in the U.S. Great Basin (temperature: 31–95°C; pH: 6.8–10.7). bGDGTs were found in 38 out of 40 samples at concentrations up to 824 ng/g sample dry mass and comprised up to 99.5% of total GDGTs (branched plus isoprenoidal). The wide distribution of bGDGTs in hot springs, strong correlation between core and polar lipid abundances, distinctness of bGDGT profiles compared to nearby soils, and higher concentration of bGDGTs in hot springs compared to nearby soils provided evidence of in situ production, particularly for the minimally methylated bGDGTs I, Ib, and Ic. Polar bGDGTs were found almost exclusively in samples ≤70°C and the absolute abundance of polar bGDGTs correlated negatively with properties of chemically reduced, high temperature spring sources (temperature, H2S/HS−) and positively with properties of oxygenated, low temperature sites (O2, NO−3). Two-way cluster analysis and nonmetric multidimensional scaling based on relative abundance of polar bGDGTs supported these relationships and showed a negative relationship between the degree of methylation and temperature, suggesting a higher abundance for minimally methylated bGDGTs at high temperature. This study presents evidence of the widespread production of bGDGTs in mats and sediments of natural geothermal springs in the U.S. Great Basin, especially in oxygenated, low-temperature sites (≤70°C).
PMCID: PMC3737515  PMID: 23964271
geothermal springs; membrane-spanning lipids; bGDGTs; thermophiles; Great Basin; lipids
19.  Reconstruction of the Archaeal Isoprenoid Ether Lipid Biosynthesis Pathway in Escherichia coli Through Digeranylgeranylglyceryl Phosphate 
Metabolic engineering  2009;11(3):184-191.
The membrane lipids of archaea are characterized by unique isoprenoid biochemistry, which typically is based on two core lipid structures, sn-2,3-diphytanylglycerol diether (archaeol) and sn-2,3-dibiphytanyldiglycerol tetraether (caldarchaeol). The biosynthetic pathway for the tetraether lipid entails unprecedented head-to-head coupling of isoprenoid intermediates by an unknown mechanism involving unidentified enzymes. To investigate the isoprenoid ether lipid biosynthesis pathway of the hyperthermophilic archaeon, Archaeoglobus fulgidus, its lipid synthesis machinery was reconstructed in an engineered E. coli strain in an effort to demonstrate, for the first time, efficient isoprenoid ether lipid biosynthesis for the production of the intermediate, digeranylgeranylglyceryl phosphate (DGGGP). The biosynthesis of DGGGP was verified using a LC/MS/MS technique and was accomplished by cloning and expressing the native E. coli gene for IPP isomerase (idi), along with the A. fulgidus genes for G1P dehydrogenase (egsA) and GGPP synthase (gps), under the control of the lac promoter. The A. fulgidus genes for GGGP synthase (GGGPS) and DGGGP synthase (DGGGPS), under the control of the araBAD promoter, were then introduced and expressed to enable DGGGP biosynthesis in vivo. This investigation established roles for four A. fulgidus genes in the isoprenoid ether lipid pathway for DGGGP biosynthesis and provides a platform useful for identification of subsequent, currently unknown, steps in tetraether lipid biosynthesis proceeding from DGGGP, which is the presumed substrate for the head-to-head coupling reaction yielding unsaturated caldarchaeol.
PMCID: PMC2726270  PMID: 19558961
Archaeoglobus fulgidus; isoprenoid; ether lipid; DGGGP
20.  Production of Branched Tetraether Lipids in the Lower Pearl River and Estuary: Effects of Extraction Methods and Impact on bGDGT Proxies 
Branched glycerol dibiphytanyl glycerol tetraethers (bGDGTs) are known as bacterial lipids that occur widely in terrestrial environments, particularly in anaerobic peat bogs and soil. We examined the abundance and distribution of bGDGTs in both core (C) and polar (P) lipid fractions from the water column and surface sediments in the lower Pearl River (PR) and its estuary using two extraction methods (sonication vs. Bligh and Dyer). A number of soil samples in the lower PR drainage basin were also collected and extracted for bGDGTs using the sonication method. The results showed aquatic production of bGDGTs as supported by substantial abundances of P-bGDGTs in the water column and sediment samples. The bGDGT-based proxies (BIT, CBT, and MBT) were not affected by the method of extraction when C-bGDGTs were analyzed; in such case, the pHCBT of the sediments reflected the soil pH of the lower PR drainage basin, and the temperature close to the annual mean air temperature (MAT) in the lower PR basin. On the other hand, the P-bGDGT-derived proxies were inconsistent between the two methods. The P-bGDGTs (particularly those extracted using the sonication method) may not be reliable indicators of annual MATs.
PMCID: PMC3253547  PMID: 22291686
Pearl River; estuary; bGDGTs; paleoclimate proxies
21.  Assessing the Nature of Lipid Raft Membranes 
PLoS Computational Biology  2007;3(2):e34.
The paradigm of biological membranes has recently gone through a major update. Instead of being fluid and homogeneous, recent studies suggest that membranes are characterized by transient domains with varying fluidity. In particular, a number of experimental studies have revealed the existence of highly ordered lateral domains rich in sphingomyelin and cholesterol (CHOL). These domains, called functional lipid rafts, have been suggested to take part in a variety of dynamic cellular processes such as membrane trafficking, signal transduction, and regulation of the activity of membrane proteins. However, despite the proposed importance of these domains, their properties, and even the precise nature of the lipid phases, have remained open issues mainly because the associated short time and length scales have posed a major challenge to experiments. In this work, we employ extensive atom-scale simulations to elucidate the properties of ternary raft mixtures with CHOL, palmitoylsphingomyelin (PSM), and palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine. We simulate two bilayers of 1,024 lipids for 100 ns in the liquid-ordered phase and one system of the same size in the liquid-disordered phase. The studies provide evidence that the presence of PSM and CHOL in raft-like membranes leads to strongly packed and rigid bilayers. We also find that the simulated raft bilayers are characterized by nanoscale lateral heterogeneity, though the slow lateral diffusion renders the interpretation of the observed lateral heterogeneity more difficult. The findings reveal aspects of the role of favored (specific) lipid–lipid interactions within rafts and clarify the prominent role of CHOL in altering the properties of the membrane locally in its neighborhood. Also, we show that the presence of PSM and CHOL in rafts leads to intriguing lateral pressure profiles that are distinctly different from corresponding profiles in nonraft-like membranes. The results propose that the functioning of certain classes of membrane proteins is regulated by changes in the lateral pressure profile, which can be altered by a change in lipid content.
Author Summary
Biological membranes are complex 2-D assemblies of various lipid species and membrane proteins. For long, it was thought that the main role of lipid membranes is to provide a homogeneous, liquid-like platform for membrane proteins to carry out their functions as they diffuse freely in the membrane plane. Recently, that view has changed. It has become evident that several lipid environments with different physical properties may coexist, and that the properties of the different lipid domains may play an active role in regulating the conformational state and dynamic sorting of membrane proteins. We have carried out atom-scale computer simulations for three-component lipid bilayers, so-called lipid rafts, rich in cholesterol and sphingolipids. They show that arising from the local interactions between the lipid species, the elastic and dynamic properties of the membranes depend strongly on the lipid composition. The changes in elastic properties are suggested to alter the functional states of various membrane proteins. Changes in lipid composition are also shown to alter the distribution of local pressure inside the membrane. This is likely to affect proteins that undergo large anisotropic conformational changes between the functional states, such as the ion channel MscL, used as an example here. A great number of important physiological phenomena, such as transmitting neural impulses or trafficking molecules in and out of the cell, involve activation of membrane proteins, so it is relevant to understand all factors affecting them. Our findings support the idea that general physical properties of the lipid environment are capable of regulating membrane proteins.
PMCID: PMC1808021  PMID: 17319738
22.  Synthetic Polypeptide Adsorption to Cu-IDA Containing Lipid Films: A Model for Protein-Membrane Interactions 
Adsorption of synthetic alanine-rich peptides to lipid monolayers was studied by X-ray and neutron reflectivity, grazing incidence X-ray diffraction (GIXD), and circular dichroic spectroscopy. The peptides contained histidine residues to drive adsorption to Langmuir monolayers of lipids with iminodiacetate headgroups loaded with Cu2+. Adsorption was found to be irreversible with respect to bulk peptide concentration. The peptides were partially helical in solution at room temperature, the temperature of the adsorption assays. Comparisons of the rate of binding and the structure of the adsorbed layer were made as a function of the number of histidines (from 0 to 2) and also as a function of the positioning of the histidines along the backbone. For peptides containing two histidines on the same side of the helical backbone, large differences were observed in the structure of the adsorbed layer as a function of the spacing of the histidines. With a spacing of 6 Å, there was a substantial increase in helicity upon binding (from 17% to 31%), and the peptides adsorbed to a final density approaching that of a nearly completed monolayer of α-helices adsorbed side-on. The thickness of the adsorbed layer (17 ± 2.5 Å) was slightly greater than the diameter of α-helices, suggesting that the free, unstructured ends extended into solution. With a spacing of 30 Å between histidines, a far weaker increase in helicity upon binding was observed (from 13% to 19%) and a much lower packing density resulted. The thickness of the adsorbed layer (10 ± 4 Å) was smaller, consistent with the ends being bound to the monolayer. Striking differences were observed in the interaction of the two types of peptide with the lipid membrane by GIXD, consistent with binding by two correlated sites only for the case of 6 Å spacing. All these results are attributed to differences in spatial correlation between the histidines as a function of separation distance along the backbone for these partially helical peptides. Finally, control over orientation was demonstrated by placing a histidine on an end of the sequence, which resulted in adsorbed peptides oriented perpendicular to the membrane.
PMCID: PMC2896795  PMID: 18179259
23.  Nonmarine Crenarchaeol in Nevada Hot Springs 
Glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) are core membrane lipids of the Crenarchaeota. The structurally unusual GDGT crenarchaeol has been proposed as a taxonomically specific biomarker for the marine planktonic group I archaea. It is found ubiquitously in the marine water column and in sediments. In this work, samples of microbial community biomass were obtained from several alkaline and neutral-pH hot springs in Nevada, United States. Lipid extracts of these samples were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Each sample contained GDGTs, and among these compounds was crenarchaeol. The distribution of archaeal lipids in Nevada hot springs did not appear to correlate with temperature, as has been observed in the marine environment. Instead, a significant correlation with the concentration of bicarbonate was observed. Archaeal DNA was analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. All samples contained 16S rRNA gene sequences which were more strongly related to thermophilic crenarchaeota than to Cenarchaeum symbiosum, a marine nonthermophilic crenarchaeon. The occurrence of crenarchaeol in environments containing sequences affiliated with thermophilic crenarchaeota suggests a wide phenotypic distribution of this compound. The results also indicate that crenarchaeol can no longer be considered an exclusive biomarker for marine species.
PMCID: PMC520871  PMID: 15345404
24.  The distribution and abundance of archaeal tetraether lipids in U.S. Great Basin hot springs 
Isoprenoidal glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (iGDGTs) are core membrane lipids of many archaea that enhance the integrity of cytoplasmic membranes in extreme environments. We examined the iGDGT profiles and corresponding aqueous geochemistry in 40 hot spring sediment and microbial mat samples from the U.S. Great Basin with temperatures ranging from 31 to 95°C and pH ranging from 6.8 to 10.7. The absolute abundance of iGDGTs correlated negatively with pH and positively with temperature. High lipid concentrations, distinct lipid profiles, and a strong relationship between polar and core lipids in hot spring samples suggested in situ production of most iGDGTs rather than contamination from local soils. Two-way cluster analysis and non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMS) of polar iGDGTs indicated that the relative abundance of individual lipids was most strongly related to temperature (r2 = 0.546), with moderate correlations with pH (r2 = 0.359), nitrite (r2 = 0.286), oxygen (r2 = 0.259), and nitrate (r2 = 0.215). Relative abundance profiles of individual polar iGDGTs indicated potential temperature optima for iGDGT-0 (≤70°C), iGDGT-3 (≥55°C), and iGDGT-4 (≥60°C). These relationships likely reflect both physiological adaptations and community-level population shifts in response to temperature differences, such as a shift from cooler samples with more abundant methanogens to higher-temperature samples with more abundant Crenarchaeota. Crenarchaeol was widely distributed across the temperature gradient, which is consistent with other reports of abundant crenarchaeol in Great Basin hot springs and suggests a wide distribution for thermophilic ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA).
PMCID: PMC3755460  PMID: 24009605
archaea; iGDGTs; hot springs; Great Basin; lipids
25.  Distribution of Membrane Lipids of Planktonic Crenarchaeota in the Arabian Sea†  
Intact core tetraether membrane lipids of marine planktonic Crenarchaeota were quantified in water column-suspended particulate matter obtained from four depth intervals (∼70, 500, 1,000 and 1,500 m) at seven stations in the northwestern Arabian Sea to investigate the distribution of the organisms at various depths. Maximum concentrations generally occurred at 500 m, near the top of the oxygen minimum zone, and the concentrations at this depth were, in most cases, slightly higher than those in surface waters. In contrast, lipids derived from eukaryotes (cholesterol) and from eukaryotes and bacteria (fatty acids) were at their highest concentrations in surface waters. This indicates that these crenarchaeotes are not restricted to the photic zone of the ocean, which is consistent with the results of recent molecular biological studies. Since the Arabian Sea has a strong oxygen minimum zone between 100 and 1,000 m, with minimum oxygen levels of <1 μM, the abundance of crenarchaeotal membrane lipids at 500 m suggests that planktonic Crenarchaeota are probably facultative anaerobes. The cell numbers we calculated from the concentrations of membrane lipids are similar to those reported for the Central Pacific Ocean, supporting the recent estimation of M. B. Karner, E. F. DeLong, and D. M. Karl (Nature 409:507-510, 2001) that the world's oceans contain ca. 1028 cells of planktonic Crenarchaeota.
PMCID: PMC123986  PMID: 12039760

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